Red Tide And Eyes
Eye Symptoms That Should Never Go Unchecked
With the summer season of beaches and fun in the sun comes another, less welcoming aspect of life in Southwest Florida, red tide. While the focus is usually on the respiratory and ecological impacts of these blooms of harmful algae, it is important to keep in mind that red tide can also significantly impact the eye health of you and your loved ones.
For the past couple months, Southwest Florida has been impacted by Red Tide. These algal blooms, caused by a species of dinoflagellate, known as Alexandrium fundyense, can cause people to have throat irritation, congestion, sneezing, itching, coughing, wheezing and even chest tightness. But, Red Tide may also cause people eye irritation including itchy and burning eyes, symptoms that can indicate serious eye conditions.
“Many patients may be familiar with the typical seasonal allergy symptoms such as redness and itchy eyes but it is important to consider the possibility that red tide can also be a significant factor for some individuals,” said Dr. Eric Liss, ophthalmologist at Community Eye Center. “For some, these symptoms may be minor and not overly bothersome, however other people may have significant difficulties with eye comfort, appearance, and even vision.”
People experiencing eye irritation from Red Tide may benefit from a comprehensive eye exam. Different from a typical optical visit, during a comprehensive eye exam, eye doctors check the eyes for signs of chronic and progressive eye conditions that can significantly impair a person’s vision, comfort and ability to function normally.
“Just as it is important to get a regular physical exam even if you don’t have active symptoms, it is similarly important to regularly assess eye health for potentially silent but visually damaging conditions such as glaucoma or macular degeneration,” said Liss. “An otherwise healthy adult should receive a comprehensive eye exam on an annual basis, with more frequent visits depending on the presence and severity of ocular disease.”
Comprehensive medical eye exams become even more critical as people age because conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration become more common. Early diagnosis and intervention of these diseases can often prevent vision loss or blindness.
“There is a widespread misperception that just because you don’t have any complaints about your vision that means that your eyes are healthy. I see patients on a daily basis who have normal vision but who nonetheless are affected by potentially blinding conditions,” said Liss. “A clinic visit to address a quality of life complaint such as eye irritation is the perfect opportunity to make sure your overall eye health and vision are as good as they can be.”